an aristocratic hobby

The popular Earl of Mar fell to his death in April of 1975. He has largely been forgotten now, but his strange hobby still makes for an interesting read. Especially as reported by The Milwaukee Journal

An ancestral Earl of Mar

“Pigeon kicking is a sport that, like the Earl’s family, goes back to antiquity. A true aficionado does not simply stroll up to a pigeon and aim his boot in its direction. If he missed he could find himself flat on his back and helpless to counter a riposte from the bird.

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A long period of training is required to develop the leg muscles and bodily reflexes. As any member of the House of Lords can tell you, it’s best to start with something inanimate; a badminton shuttlecock for instance. Lord Featherstonehaugh, whose family was big in guano, spent every afternoon from 1909 to 1927 having Lady Featherstonehaugh hit shuttlecocks towards him so he could practice kicking them back.

Soviet Improvised Technology

Through such practice His Lordship developed a right leg 8 inches longer than the left.

One factor that has kept pigeon kicking a minority interest is the question of exactly what to wear. Some sportsmen sally forth in red riding coats and bowlers, others prefer Harris tweed and umbrellas. The feminine auxiliary generally wears gardening hats, heavy mittens and a determined expression.

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Most followers of this sport tend to keep quiet about it, preferring to let common folk remain in ignorance of this aristocratic hobby. The Earl of Mar was more forthcoming and listed his recreation in “Who’s Who” as kicking pigeons.

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The report into his death did not go into details on how he managed to fall from his fifth floor apartment but those who know how annoying a pigeon strutting along a ledge can be will draw their own conclusions.

Published in: on May 20, 2010 at 8:33 am  Comments (42)  
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  1. ‘If he missed he could find himself flat on his back and helpless to counter a riposte from the bird.’

    Not that I’ve tried the sport, though I am now tempted, how much force do you have to put into a kick for it to take you off your feet. And secondly how big does a pigeon have to be to sufficiently dampen that force upon contact.

  2. You are right, it does make an interesting read! Something about the lofty heights of society not merely kicking, but training to kick, the pigeons – the underclass on the bird world, seems a perfectly fitting metaphor for the class system – what to make of him falling out the window as a result, I wonder…!!

  3. One day a man was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge on his way to work when one of the cables snapped and came crashing down on his head, killing him instantly.

    Investigators discovered that decades of pigeon guano, mixed with rain water, had corroded the cable anchor. Absolutely true story!

    Pigeons 1. Commuter nil.

    • Now that’s an interesting tale UB

  4. i always thought it would be more fun to whack pigeons with a cricket bat, but the damn things only tend to congregate in public places. i may have to use the bat on the raging mobs of canada geese overtaking the sidewalks, bikeways and parking lots of my hometown… no one would lock me up at this point for taking out a few of them.

  5. Such a hobby speaks volumes as to the petty and stunted lifestyle of the aristocracy. I’d call them bird-brains but that would be an insult to the pigeons.

  6. The Tom Lehrer song “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park” somehow comes to mind. . . Now, I have a huge question mark over the leg getting 8 inches longer because of his training. sounds like a lot of poppycock to me.

    • Oh I think the entire story is poppycock

  7. I like to run over pigeons with my bike, a little easy though, they are very stupid animals

    • Malach! They coo very highly of you :-(

  8. That second picture is why I have an unhealthy fear of pigeons.

    But even though I hate them, I still woulddn’t feel right kicking them for sport…

  9. Probably fell out of the window during a squabble.

    Kiki Fowler

    • haha.. your nom de plume today reminds me of a 1990s corrupt Sydney cop – his name was Chook Fowler

  10. OMG, when I was a child I was afraid that my right arm would grow a foot longer than my left from throwing and my right foot longer than my left from kicking. I see that I was actually lucky that it didn’t happen.

  11. I met a guy catching pigeons under an overpass once. He’d made a net specifically for that purpose. He called them “street chickens” and said they was “good eatin.” I didn’t join him for dinner though. But that’s because I wasn’t really all that hungry. I’d just finished a box of crackers and cheezewhiz.

    • ok, i know this is gonna sound weird but i have an old old relative that can remember eating blackbird. (true) i wonder if they ate them cause they tawsted good or if they were jsut so darn poor.. guess it coulda been either.

      • I had pigeon soup when I was in Vietnam – it was delicious!

  12. That woman has more facial expressions than Orlando Bloom. Why wasn’t she in Lord of the Rings?

    Also, you need to be able to kick with both legs, so that you don’t need to wear a Frankenstein platform boot on your non-dominant foot just to get about.

  13. I guess it’s obvious why ostrich kicking never took off.

    • Maybe not in your neck of the woods Kyk but it’s big over here

  14. You are sooooo good at finding the right piccy …….

  15. …… but don’t get big-headed ……

  16. “Lady Featherstonehaugh hit shuttlecocks towards him so he could practice kicking them back.” I think I saw this at Cirque De Soleil

  17. I had a similar hobby although it involves not pigeons but the annoying stray cats in my neighbourhood. Now i am against animal cruelty but cats…i couldnt resist…..my whole family has a history of violence against cats….it’s in my genes.

    But i try very hard now not to do it although i must say the sight of a cat’s arse is most tempting :p

    • Os Sabrina, I hate to think what Synchy will say if she sees this comment….. and I just took my cat out of the room in case he was reading over my shoulder

  18. For anyone struggling with Featherstonehaugh, I’d just like to say it’s actually prononunced Fanshaw.

    I thank you.

  19. Wow a sport more radical than extreme ironing

  20. wow how you managed to get Carla’s [off a Corre] expression in this post is pure genius ;)

    • My mum used to watch that show when I was growing up. I can’t believe it’s still going!

      • oh yes it it is still going a bit like ‘home and away’ and ‘Neighbours they go on for ever [we do Corrie Star spotting in work and I walk past where they film every day]… btw I am off to watch it in a min……

  21. My neighbourhood is teeming with cockatoos, who I regard as the hoodlums of the bird world. I am therefore hoping to make cockatoo kicking a popular local variant of pigeon kicking. Would anyone like to join me? Could a team be put together in time for the Commonwealth Games?

    • oh I know they can be raucous bullies but I love cockatoos – probably because I don’t have many of them screaming their heads off around where I live.

      If I visit Stephen’s memorial tree in Centennial Park early in the morning, there is often a flock of cockies nearby. I like to think they keep him company

  22. Might have to get the hub a bowler and red coat… I think he’d enjoy this sport mightily! :)

  23. am i the only one that really likes the sound of the word “shuttlecock”? c’mon….say it with me now….
    s h u t t l e c o c k ……..mmmmmmmm.

    • My mistress is a shuttle-cock,
      Composed of cork and feather:
      Each Battledore sets on her dock
      And bumps her on the leather.
      But cast her off which way you will,
      She will return to another still,
      Fa la, fa la, fa la.

      You reminded me of that gem, which appearsin E. R. Eddison’s Worm Ouroboros almost as an afterthought.

  24. Sh*t. Had I known there was training, I’d be better at it today. Honestly Myra, where do you find these?

    • I get a lot of ideas from the books I read….

  25. anyone that would harm an animal would also harm a human. i don’t trust them.
    if you feel like kicking something, go kick a soccer ball.

  26. I’ll stick to watching them… having one leg 8 inches longer than the other is pretty unflattering :)


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